The music video of Michael Jackson named Billie Jean maybe considered as one of the best solos written by the great artist. The song was part of the multi platinum selling 1982 album ‘Thriller’. It was produced and written by the artist himself and he believed that the song would be a hit from the beginning. He even quarreled with the producer about including it in the album. He put up a fight with his producer Quincy to keep it in the album. The song was included in the album ‘Thriller’ and became one of the well known ones in the group.
The presentation mainly features Jackson being followed by another person who is conceivably a detective of some sort who tries to record some proof about the relationship of MJ with a girl. As usual the whole video is shrouded in an aura of the supernatural and the singer is exalted to another plane beyond that of mortals. This cannot be counted as anything extraordinary, as the technique is employed only to keep the attention of the viewer glued to the screen. The Analysis of Billie Jean The song itself is named after a girl. The girl, according to MJ, is a model of girls called groupies.
Groupies, who hung around back stage doors, loved performing artists, and followed them around on their tours. Such girls often suffered setbacks and were prone to drug addiction and mental instability. The song starts with MJ praising the beauty of the girl, but the mood of the singer in the video is rather gloomy. There is a private detective following him, from what follows, maybe he is trying pick up some piece of evidence. The lyrics ooze out the sympathy of the singer to the girl and the video shows him slipping from the person following him.
The first feel that you get when you watch the video is the sad mood of the song as well as the lyrics. It goes without mention that the solo is rather in empathy with the girl in the poem. It is seems as if Jackson was sad that he had broken somebody’s heart. But at the same time he is rough with the rough. He traps the person who tries to trap him, maybe a paparazzi of some sort. The video depicts Jackson endowed with the supernatural, as in many of his other videos. It starts in a shady part of the town, being changed by the presence of the singer.
The setting suits the mood of the poem and indicates the gutters in which MJ’s imagined lover lives. His steps are marked by light and he exudes kindness in his actions and gestures. He is followed by the detective (or reporter) who tries to be inconspicuous. After this a newspaper that shows ‘Billy Jean Scandal’ written on it is shown falling from the hands of the detective, which puts us directly in the middle of the scandal that Jackson faced a short while before the video was made.
The lighting up of the steps, the sudden alteration that happens to the man who is given a penny by Jackson, his disappearing act twice in the video, all give it an appearance of the majestic presence and prowess of the singer. It is a device used by the icon in many of his songs and this cannot be seen as something calculated to make him a mythical icon or something equivalent. MJ was the first among many who successfully utilized short videos to convey a strong background to the song and dance, thus keeping the audience spellbound.
The video is made to suit the lyrics and it is the lyrics that clearly get the upper hand during the song. Without such powerful lyrics the song may not have become such a hit. The best reason for this assumption is that the lyrics could stand alone, but the video could not stand alone and a viewer would not be able to make heads or tails out of it. “But the kid is not my son…”is a very powerful phrase oft quoted within the lines in the poem. Then the newspaper headline ‘Billie Jean Scandal’ clarifies only with the “She says I am the one….. ”.
At first it is a sign of negation, but later on the tone changes, that though he sounds to be sympathetic, he is also saying that he has done nothing wrong. It is as if the singer was laying out his innocence as well as his competence to deal with the traps before the audience. I feel that we should consider the fact that MJ was also a partner in the production apart from Quincy who produced the video. Jackson’s experience with the groupie an year back could have controlled the way he produced the video. If this was an outburst, he would have certainly left some clues within the video, even while negating it before the public.
The clues would be there, for those who knew where to look for them. We find that the experience was personal and reflected in the video, under close scrutiny. The girl on bed whom Jackson is photographed with, by the detective is anonymous. We should read this together with “the kid is not my son…”. He never negates what the girl was to him. His approach to the girl is sad and thoughtful and not menacing. The video is also sympathetic with the girl, because he approaches her in the bed. ( It could also be that it was done to trap the detective, so that the he could be trapped by the police).
MJ uses several techniques in the video to make it convey the mythical image of the hero. The steps he take is always lighting up. Even the pillar he leans on lights up. Once when the detective tries to catch him he just disappears. The lighting up technique is later used to show the invisible presence of MJ following the arrested detective. Another technique is the presence of the cat, which can be seen to change its size. All these things work together to capture the attention of the viewer. We should say that he succeeded in this technique.
Another major success that was achieved by MJ was that he left many things unsaid and left it to the intelligent viewer to decide about it. It is true in the case of short films that often the director feels it painful to leave out scenes that were difficult to shoot. But MJ has been careful to present only the bare minimum that was needed to present the story, and left the rest to the viewer’s imagination. Another great technique is the start/stop dancing technique of MJ which gained popularity with his as well as his teams support. This is what makes the video exceptional.
The technique is physically very complicated and gained popularity around the world with its use by MJ. The dance stills used in the video is superb and the all compliments are due to the editor who has done wonderful job of editing the whole video to perfection. This comparatively slow number catches all the attention of the audience. Its title was actually related to another video in the same album, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’, rather than any connection with the star tennis player, Billie Jean King. First of all, the solo was introduced into the album which was named ‘Thriller’.
As we hear the song, we find that the other songs are fast whereas this solo could not have withstood the heavy onslaught by other numbers. But, it was Jackson’s creative genius and a deep understanding of his audience that made him confident that audience could accept this slow number. He has said earlier that he knew the song would be a hit, because he felt exhilarated after writing the lyrics. His capability to keep his audience guessing along with his inimitable dancing style has made the video wonderful. I feel that the video was created with the effort enhancing the dream lover image of Michael Jackson.
With the mighty stroke of an artist he establishes himself as the lover of dreams and the same time capable of outwitting his numerous enemies. He silently accepts the love of the girl, whom he agrees to be a groupie and proves to be too slippery to fall into a trap. He has appeared in another of his albums as lover cum vampire and I would even dare to say that he was a forerunner of Stephanie Meyer, who wrote the book ‘Twilight”. He has successfully established for himself, an image of the superhuman lover, that every teenager longs for in his/her unconscious. In this video, he has further enhanced it.
This should be read side by side with the lyrics “People always told me be careful of what you do And don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts And mother always told me be careful of who you love And be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth” Thus he indirectly speaks about his enticing personality and at the same time expiates himself of any connection with the girl in question. But then, he keeps himself open to relations. The versatile genius of MJ is very clearly brought to light and he is able to project himself as the youth icon, around the world.
This video is a very good example for that. He also keeps everyone guessing and glued to the screen till the end of the video. Conclusion Michael Jackson was the undisputed king of pop music. The video was a landmark in the life of MJ. His ability to touch the hearts of his viewers was once again brought to light. The video earned him many awards and made him top many charts in America as well as Europe (Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (4:51)). Works cited: Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (4:51). July 29, 2010. 2010. <http://www. last. fm/music/Michael+Jackson/_/Billie+Jean>
Courtney from Study Moose
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